Amendments to the Administrative Law Judge, Appeals Council, and Decision Review Board Appeals Levels
We propose to include in parts 404 and 416 of our rules many of the hearing level procedures now in place for disability cases in the Boston region. This change will expand those rules nationwide and apply them to hearings on both disability and non-disability matters. We expect these rules will make the hearings process more efficient and help us reduce the hearings backlog, which has reached historic proportions, thereby benefiting all individuals requesting a hearing. We also propose to amend our rules governing the final level of the administrative review process to make proceedings at that level more like those used by a Federal appellate court when it reviews the decision of a district court, to establish procedures for appeals to that level, and to change the name of the body that will hear such appeals from the ``Appeals Council,'' or the ``Decision Review Board'' in the Boston region, to the ``Review Board.'' Consistent with the change to a more truly appellate process, we suggest limiting the circumstances in which new evidence may be added to the record during the appeals process. We also propose circumscribing the time period covered in any subsequent administrative hearing on remand from the Review Board or a Federal court to the time period covered by the first administrative law judge's (ALJ) hearing decision in the case.
Office of the Commissioner; Cost-of-Living Increase and Other Determinations for 2008
The Commissioner has determined (1) A 2.3 percent cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits under title II of the Social Security Act (the Act), effective for December 2007; (2) An increase in the Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly benefit amounts under title XVI of the Act for 2008 to $637 for an eligible individual, $956 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $319 for an essential person; (3) The student earned income exclusion to be $1,550 per month in 2008 but not more than $6,240 in all of 2008; (4) The dollar fee limit for services performed as a representative payee to be $35 per month ($68 per month in the case of a beneficiary who is disabled and has an alcoholism or drug addiction condition that leaves him or her incapable of managing benefits) in 2008; (5) The dollar limit on the administrative-cost assessment charged to attorneys representing claimants to be $79 in 2008; (6) The national average wage index for 2006 to be $38,651.41; (7) The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) contribution and benefit base to be $102,000 for remuneration paid in 2008 and self-employment income earned in taxable years beginning in 2008; (8) The monthly exempt amounts under the Social Security retirement earnings test for taxable years ending in calendar year 2008 to be $1,130 and $3,010; (9) The dollar amounts (``bend points'') used in the primary insurance amount benefit formula for workers who become eligible for benefits, or who die before becoming eligible, in 2008 to be $711 and $4,288; (10) The dollar amounts (``bend points'') used in the formula for computing maximum family benefits for workers who become eligible for benefits, or who die before becoming eligible, in 2008 to be $909, $1,312, and $1,711; (11) The amount of taxable earnings a person must have to be credited with a quarter of coverage in 2008 to be $1,050; (12) The ``old-law'' contribution and benefit base to be $75,900 for 2008; (13) The monthly amount deemed to constitute substantial gainful activity for statutorily blind individuals in 2008 to be $1,570, and the corresponding amount for non-blind disabled persons to be $940; (14) The earnings threshold establishing a month as a part of a trial work period to be $670 for 2008; and (15) Coverage thresholds for 2008 to be $1,600 for domestic workers and $1,400 for election workers.
Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Digestive Disorders
We are revising the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (the listings) that we use to evaluate claims involving digestive disorders. We apply these criteria when you claim benefits based on disability under title II and title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act). The revisions reflect advances in medical knowledge, methods of evaluating digestive disorders, treatment, and our program experience. We are also removing listings that are redundant because they only refer to other listings, and we are making other conforming changes.